29 September | People

From their workshop in Suffolk, two young British craftsmen are creating stunning, bespoke motorcycles.

Old Empire Motorcycles
In the latest of our regular series of interviews with modern-day adventurers, explorers and entrepreneurs, we sat down with Farer wearers Alec Sharp and Rafe Pugh, the brains behind Old Empire Motorcycles (OEM), a custom motorcycles, parts and clothing business in rural Suffolk.
'We create bespoke motorcycles for clients around the world,' says Alec. 'And we've been known to create custom bikes for brands too. Rafe is the man behind all the photoshoots and films we make, and I spend my time in the workshop - or 'The HOA' as we call it - with the bikes.'


The House of Assembly

In the world of OEM - and in Rafe's own words - 'The HOA' stands for: 'The House of Assembly, where we pay daily homage to the gods of speed and fuel.  It's the place where we meet, greet, drill, weld, cut, grind, turn, mill, hammer, roll and notch to our hearts content to create and display our bespoke motorcycles.' As the name implies, its a place where creativity and experimentation are commonplace.

British Made

'Unlike most custom bike builders in the UK we do not stick to styling ‘rules’', says Alec. 'We simply focus on creating the very best we possibly can, using what we are given. We're inspired by motoring history, but we want to adapt and refine those iconic designs, to create our own styling. 'That makes every bike a time-consuming and intricate process. There's so much thought, design and craft involved, but that's the way it should be because we are making something unique.'

British Adventures

A commitment to working with British manufacturers, craftsman and designers also plays a huge part in OEM's success - and they are equally committed explorers of the British Isles too. 'Last September we toured Scotland for seven days on motorcycles,' Rafe says. 'We travelled up and around the Isle of Mull, Loch Lomond and a few other beautiful places along the way. 
'It was a fantastic experience to travel all day and not really know where we were going to camp that night; Britain is perfect for those sorts of adventures, where you hop on a bike and just go.'

Favourite Bike, Favourite Watch

Not that their travel plans are limited to these shores. Alec and Rafe are also currently organising a trip to India to ride Royal Enfields in the Himalayas. And Farer, in the form of their watches, will be along for the ride too. 'My favourite classic bike is Panther Sloper Model 100,' says Alec, 'and everything we do at OEM is about considered design and caring about the details, and that feels like what Farer stands for too. 'As for my personal favourite? It's the Farer Quartz Stark. Clean design, subtle finishing and classic detailing are all things we care about too. It's right along the line of our own motorcycles and for that reason, I love it.'
'I wear the Meakin,' adds Rafe, 'I love the skeleton hands and how they work with the contrasting colour of the crown. We see a lot of similarities between Old Empire Motorcycles and Farer, where British design is at the core.'